Iron Curtain Preview With the United States playing a waiting role in the young World War II, radio networks, picture services, wire services, and several of the larger daily newspapers operationalized plans to report the war to their listeners and readers.
Wireless transmission facilities encircled the globe. News bureaus became formal, and centrally located offices were staffed to collect and disseminate the latest war news. In 1940 and 1941 the major services of our country screened personnel to locate the best equipped men and women to fill important foreign posts.
In 1940 The New York Herald Tribune was second only to The New York Times in scope of its world news coverage. Now defunct, at the time it was one of the world's great conservative newspapers.* (footnote)(1)
Barnes characteristically employed vivid coverage tactics. From Berlin in 1940 he wrote a series of unvarnished dispatches which finally resulted in his expulsion on June 21 of that year. The expulsion order from Dr. Goebbels denounced a Barnes' dispatch as "false, hateful, and sensational." That particular dispatch had predicted eventual war between Germany and Russia. It was written and filed just one year and two days before the actual conflict began.
Barnes had been thoroughly schooled in Russian methods and concepts of thought while attached to the Moscow office of the Herald Tribune Bureau. He witnessed the planning and implementation of Russia's first five-year plan-a scheme intended to promote economic growth.
After reporting on the Iron Curtain of his day, he moved into the field with the British Expeditionary Forces in France. While on this assignment, Ralph Waldo Barnes became the first American newspaperman killed in action. He lost his life flying a mission aboard a British bomber which crashed near Danilovgrad, Montenegro Provence in Yugoslavia. He was 41 at the time. The British airplane which carried him to his death was heavy with bombs. RAF observers informed his Bureau that the aircraft had received a direct hit in mid-air
The British War Office paid official tribute to Ralph Waldo Barnes. It expressed appreciation of his wholehearted interest in the Royal Navy and the RAF as reflected by his keenness after the news. Barnes, a native of Salem, Ore., was a 1922 graduate of Willamette University. He majored in economics and history. He then went on to receive his Master of Arts degree from Harvard University in 1924. The son of Edward Talbot and Mabel Baker Barnes, Ralph was born on June 14, 1899. His wife was the former Esther Parounagian, one of his classmates at Willamette University. She returned to the United States with their two children, Joan and Suzanne, on June 9, 1940. At the time of her husband's death, Mrs. Barnes and the two children were staying with Barnes' parents in Oregon.
Barnes' newspaper career started with the now defunct Brooklyn Eagle and the old Evening World. When he left for France in 1926, he landed a job on the Paris Herald, now the European edition of the Herald Tribune. During his three years there as a reporter he covered his first notable story-the feat of Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel (August 6, 1926). Barnes was in a tugboat following the swimmer. When due to rough seas the boat was unable to land passengers, he started ashore in a life boat. When it capsized, he was forced to swim ashore. Once there he ran two miles down Dover beach to a telephone in order to get the story to his London Bureau for relay to New York. His experience was nearly as trying as that of the star of his story.
Among his outstanding pre-war assignments were the 1933 famine in the Ukraine, the 1934 treason trials in Moscow, the Chamberlain mission to Berchestgaden in September 1938, and the Munich settlement later that same month.
Barnes died on November 18, 1940. Two days later his rival outlet, The New York Times, acknowledged the loss, ". . . to the newspaper which he served so devotedly, and to his wife and children far away in Oregon, the newspapermen of the Times wish to offer their sympathy and sorrow." The editorial added, "None of them (war correspondents) faced risks more willingly or more often than Ralph Waldo Barnes of the Herald Tribune."